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Unity College Touts One of “Greenest” College Commencements in U.S.

Posted April 22, 2013, at 5:27 p.m.
Last modified April 23, 2013, at 10:36 a.m.

Unity, Maine – April, 2013 – The first college in the United States to divest from investments in fossil fuels will feature one of the most compelling environmental speakers during its Commencement ceremonies.

Internationally acclaimed environmental educator, writer, and scholar James Gustave “Gus” Speth has been named the 2013 Commencement speaker at Unity College. The theme of his presentation is caring: for the planet, communities, and each other. Climate change will also be prominently featured in his presentation. A rallying call from his presentation is “the fight is not over, with your help, we will win (the struggle to mitigate climate change).”

The 44th Commencement exercises will be held Saturday, May 18 at 1 p.m. in Tozier Gymnasium on the campus of Unity College, 90 Quaker Hill Road, Unity, Maine.

Each year Unity College offers one of the “greenest,” most environmentally leading-edge Commencement ceremonies in America. This year the environmental college in Maine, which goes by the tag-line America’s Environmental College, will feature: local and sustainable foods; recycling and waste management; caps and gowns made from recyclable plastic bottles; local vendors; carbon offset purchases for all participants; a sustainable pledge for graduates to live a life in service to the planet; recycled paper for diplomas and programs; 100% of electricity from renewable sources; and sapling trees for all graduates.

Professor Speth joined the faculty at Vermont Law School in 2010. A Distinguished Senior Fellow with Demos, a United States-based research and policy center founded in 2000 that maintains a non-partisan role policy change and reform work to revitalize American democracy, he completed a decade-long tenure in 2009 as dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

From 1993 to 1999, he was administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the U.N. Development Group. Prior to his service at the U.N., he was founder and president of the World Resources Institute; professor of law at Georgetown University; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality in the Carter administration; and senior attorney and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Throughout his career, Professor Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment. Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Environmental Law Institute and the League of Conservation Voters, and the Blue Planet Prize.

He is the author, co-author, or editor of six books, including the award-winning The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability and Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment.

“In my view, all of his books should be accessible to first-year college students,” said Stephen Mulkey, President of Unity College.

Mulkey singled out Red Sky at Morning and America the Possible for particular praise.

“In essence Professor Speth is a political economist and his focus is on creating a ‘sustaining economy.’ He realizes that there are two fundamental aspects to our sustainability crisis; macroeconomics largely controlled by corporate and political interests, and personal desires driven by inappropriate sense of need. Although not an evolutionary psychologist, he wades into the latter with mastery in two of his works.”

In her review of Professor Speth’s book entitled “America the Possible,” Hazel Henderson, author and founder of Ethical Markets Media, LLC, wrote that he is “one of the most prominent, knowledgeable, global environmentalists of our time. A quintessential insider, Speth began as an anti-nuclear activist in the 1970s and later chaired President Jimmy Carter’s Council on Environmental Quality. In the 1980s, he founded and led the influential World Resources Institute in Washington, DC, and in the 1990s became the administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). He promoted the understanding that global environmental sustainability rested on alleviating poverty, promoting human rights, economic and social justice, better education and health, stabilizing populations, expanding the rule of law, protecting our global commons and addressing conflicts with more diplomacy and fewer weapons.”

Mulkey framed America the Possible as one of the most important books in decades to address transformation in America and, through my inference, U.S. Higher education.

“On the whole, I think his work is not only germane, but it should be required reading for all of our students,” Mulkey continued. “We will place a copy of his most recent work on the seat of every student at Commencement.”

“We are delighted and humbled that Professor Speth will serve as our Commencement speaker,” Mulkey said. “For generations he has served as one of the most insightful environmental thinkers in America. As our graduates venture out into a world in desperate need of wise environmental stewardship to preserve its very existence, it is entirely appropriate for them to evaluate and internalize the wisdom that their commencement speaker offers. There is no better individual to step forward and offer that wisdom than Professor Speth.”

In recent years Unity College has gained national attention for a variety of achievements including its focus on sustainability science, the leading-edge of 21st century ecological problem solving and the vanguard in the fight for the mitigation of global climate change; its ground-breaking “green” innovations such as the award-winning TerraHaus, the first student residence on a college or university campus built to the Passive House standard, the most energy efficient building standard in the world; and for being the first college in the United States to divest from investments in fossil fuels, igniting a growing national movement in higher education.

Unity College is a private college in rural Maine that provides dedicated, engaged students with a liberal arts education which emphasizes the environment and natural resources. Unity College graduates are prepared to be environmental stewards, effective leaders, and responsible citizens through active learning experiences within a supportive community.

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